Sheldon M. Schuster became the second president of Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) on July 15, 2003, succeeding founding president Henry E. “Hank” Riggs. At the time, the Institute had just one academic program and 45 students. Under Schuster’s leadership, KGI has shown tremendous growth in both its academic programs and its financial resources, now boasting 600 students enrolled in more than a dozen programs.
During Schuster’s tenure, KGI has achieved several “firsts” and surpassed a number of critical milestones, including:
- cultivating a strong Board of Trustees composed of 28 leaders in industry, healthcare, and education, as well as several advisory boards that assist in keeping KGI on the cutting edge with its curriculum and services to support the career success of KGI students and graduates
- completion of KGI’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, which included a $20 million matching grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, meeting the $30 million goal a year ahead of schedule
- creation of the Biocon Academy, a Bangalore-based certificate program taught remotely by KGI faculty, in collaboration with Biocon Ltd., India’s leading biotechnology company
- physical growth in the KGI footprint, with purchases of an office building, land for future expansion—setting plans in motion for a 400-bed student housing structure—and rental of office space contiguous to campus
- creation of three 5-year strategic plans to guide growth through KGI’s 25th anniversary in 2022
Schuster enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis in fall 1965. He began as a philosophy major, later switching to biochemistry after developing an interest in science while working in the lab of Professor Lawrence Rappaport in the Department of Plant Sciences. He graduated with a BS in biochemistry in 1970 and went on to earn a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Arizona in 1974.
After completing his doctorate, Schuster joined the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1976, he became an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Life Sciences at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, where he subsequently rose to the rank of Professor of Chemistry and Biological sciences. In 1989, Schuster moved to the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he became a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Interim Assistant Vice President for Research and Graduate Education, and Director of the Biotechnology Program before relocating to Southern California to assume the presidency of KGI.
During his time in Nebraska, Schuster co-founded the state’s first biotechnology company, BioNebraska (later known as Restoragen, Inc.), which made monoclonal antibodies to bind molecular mercury and developed a potential therapy for congestive heart failure.
Schuster’s research focused on finding new targets for synthesizing mechanism-based inhibitors of disease-related enzymes by studying the relationship between the structure and function of ATP synthase and asparagine synthetase. Schuster also examined the role of mycoplasmal infections in the progression of malignant tumors. His research has been published in the journal Biochemistry. He also has written commentaries that appeared in the journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education.
Honors and Service
Schuster has been active in professional organizations such as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and the Council for Biotechnology Centers. He currently is a features editor for the journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education and a member of its editorial board.
In 2007, the American Association for the Advancement of Science elected Schuster as an AAAS Fellow, an honor given by members to their peers who have made significant contributions in areas such as research, teaching, and technology.
Schuster was born in San Mateo, California. He is the son of the late Eunice (Gold) Schuster and the late Irving Schuster, both originally from Chicago, Illinois.